Inking 101: How to Prepare for Your First Tattoo

Getting your first tattoo is exciting and can be a little scary if you don't know where to start. It's important to understand how to find an artist, how to prepare for the best tattoo experience, and understand proper aftercare. This is the perfect time to connect with your inked friends to get recommendations and the tips to an amazing tattoo experience.

In this article

Before you get a tattoo 


Knowledge is power! You’ve taken your first steps just reading this article. Take the time to look for quality artists in your area, talk to your tattooed friends and look through online portfolios to get an idea of styles, colors and designs that are out there; Instagram is a great place to start.. With the right artist, the sky's the limit. You can get online or social media and look up tattoo designs by the thousands, think of specific words that will help narrow your search. These can include: portrait, watercolor, or anime,, whatever keywords describe your idea.

Now that you have an idea of what's possible, consider what new tattoo you want. Maybe you already have artwork in mind, maybe you are just going for specific placement, or maybe you want a memorial tattoo for someone you love. 

Are you looking for realism, something modern, or your favorite colors? All of these can influence the final design and placement of your new tattoo. Consider picking out a few different designs with different colors, lines, and shapes to them. Your artist can work with you to enhance or recommend design options based on placement on your body. Remember they are artists and can offer ideas to make the design unique for you. 

Young tattoo artist

Find an artist

Once you have a good idea of what you want for your first tattoo and have some designs, it's time to find an artist for your consultation.  

Things to consider when choosing an artist to work with include the style of the artwork you want compared to the style the artist specializes in. If you want a black and gray portrait, seek out a well-known portrait artist.  Some artists specialize in watercolor or realism. No matter what you're designing, cast your net wide to find the right artist for your style of tattoo. 

Once you find a few artists whose style you are interested in, follow them on social media and check out their website. What kind of person do they seem to be? Do you think you would be a good fit with their personality? You are going to be spending some time with the artist you choose, it’s important you are comfortable and relaxed during your experience.

Don’t forget to look at their fully healed tattoos, as this will give you a long-term look at their work. Fresh tattoos are often red and swollen which doesn’t allow for a good look at the quality.

Well-qualified and experienced artists are often pretty booked up, but the wait can be worth it for a quality tattoo. Location is easy- how far do you want to travel? As for price, many tattoo artists charge by the hour. During your consultation, your artist will give you a predicted time frame and total cost of the tattoo. Most artists require a deposit to book your appointment. 

Decide on placement and size 

Placement and size are closely related when designing your tattoo. When deciding on the placement, it's important to consider factors such as your body shape and the specific area you want the tattoo to be. For instance, if you're considering a side tattoo, the placement and size will be determined partially by the contours of your body. If you want a foot tattoo, consider the long, narrow shape of your foot. With placement and size, tattoo artists also consider the life of the tattoo and preservation of the tattoo.

Tattoo artists also consider the longevity and preservation of the tattoo when determining the placement and size. They take into consideration how the tattoo will age over time and ensure that it will still look great years down the line. By carefully considering the placement and size, you can ensure that your tattoo not only looks visually appealing but also stands the test of time.

The day before your tattoo appointment

Now you have an appointment, have paid your deposit, and decided on design. Now you prepare for your new tattoo. As important as the artist is, you also need to be committed to the process and be prepared for the day of your appointment.  

Some tips to help you enjoy your tattoo experience:

Do not drink alcohol the day before or day of - Alcohol thins your blood and this can cause excessive bleeding and impact the way the ink settles into your skin. Being hungover also decreases your pain tolerance. This can hinder your experience, no matter how fantastic your artist is.

Get a good night's sleep the night before. No late night partying or binging your favorite show. When you are well rested, your body has more energy. This will help you get through the session and aid in your pain tolerance. A well rested body also twitches and jerks less, meaning straighter lines and a cleaner overall look.

person eating a healthy meal

Eat before your appointment - Eat a good, balanced meal before your tattoo appointment. Like, getting a good night's sleep, eating a hearty meal beforehand will mean better and long-lasting energy. Your blood sugar or caffeine levels also play a role in your tattoo experience. Avoid sugar packed meals or snacks before your appointment. Many tattoo artists recommend eating 30 minutes before your appointment. Take snacks too!

Drink water- Drink water, drink water, drink water and drink water. When you are hydrated before and during your appointment, it will help you get through it a little better and help your healing afterward. Plus water is good for you!

Consider what you're wearing - Depending on the placement of your tattoo, you need to consider your clothing and/or footwear. You want to wear something that you don’t mind getting possible ink or stencil ink on. If you are getting a tattoo on your arm, wear a tank top to keep the area free of fabric and allow for ease of wrapping it up when you’re done. As far as footwear, if you are getting a foot or ankle tattoo, you want to avoid socks and boots or sneakers. Sandals can rub against the tattoo. Consider a light pair of flip flops while it’s still wrapped up. 

Take a shower - be clean!  This may seem like a no-brainer, but you want your skin to be clean and free of wounds. Clean skin allows the ink to take better and helps avoid infection. Also, shave the area carefully. This can save time and headache for your tattoo artist. And your artist will appreciate you being clean and ready to go. 

The day you get tattooed

Tattoo artist with preparing ink for tattooing

When you arrive: Make sure you arrive on time to your appointment. It's important to be punctual for your appointment. Take the time to fill out any necessary consent forms and be prepared to present your ID. Additionally, don't forget to wash your hands before getting started. Remember, reputable tattoo artists prioritize a clean and sterile environment to ensure your safety and satisfaction.

During your session: Stay hydrated during your session, drink water. It helps with pain tolerance and healing after. And, bring something to do! If you have a good rapport with your tattoo artist, you may find yourself gabbing the whole time. Otherwise, load that show you’ve been streaming and distract yourself. Don’t forget snacks - protein packed snacks like jerky or nuts are better than candy. 

Congratulations on your new tattoo, but you aren’t done just yet

You made it through your session and you have your new tattoo, but you aren’t quite done, yet.  After your session is complete, your artist will clean and carefully wrap your tattoo. There are a variety of wrapping methods that artists use, be sure to follow their instructions. During this time, your tattoo artist will also go over your aftercare routine. Pay attention and ask any questions that pop up. Your artist will go over how to keep your new tattoo clean using antibacterial soap, aftercare products to use,  and how to moisturize to heal quickly and properly for a lasting piece of art. 

The lifetime of your tattoo can be greatly affected by any of the things above. The better prepared you are for your first tattoo experience, the better the healing and life of the tattoo.

Note: Stay in touch with your tattoo artist in the event of questions or problems with your healing.



Why you should not drink alcohol the day before or after getting a tattoo |

It is important to eat BEFORE you get tattooed |